Gaza war, AP, 2009
A cloud of smoke billows over Gaza after an Israel Defense Forces strike during the 2009 war. Photo by AP / Archive
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In an unusual step, a Be'er Sheva court ordered police on Sunday to compensate a student from Ben-Gurion University who demonstrated against Operation Cast Lead two years ago.

The student, Ran Tzoref, will be paid nearly NIS 13,000 - most of it as compensation for violating his legal right to demonstrate.

"The affront to the accused's freedom of expression is the most extreme affront one can imagine in a democratic country," Judge Sara Haviv wrote.

"While expressing [his views] and demonstrating, the accused's protest was interrupted in a way that was not legal, and he was put under arrest," she added.

She ordered the police to pay Tzoref NIS 10,000 for violating his legal right to demonstrate, and another NIS 2,838 for arresting him and dragging him into a criminal process from which he was exonerated.

Tzoref and five other demonstrators against the operation, conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip from December 2008 to January 2009, were indicted on charges of participating in an illegal gathering and continuing to riot after a police officer had order them to disperse.

Tzoref was held for one day and then put under house arrest for a month.

The police eventually changed their minds about the indictments against the other five demonstrators, but insisted on continuing the process against Tzoref. The judge acquitted Tzoref last month, after the prosecution failed to provide sufficient proof of the offense.

Haviv stated then that the significance of the right to demonstrate and express oneself in a democratic state stems from the state's will to allow its citizens to hold conversations, exchange ideas and convince one another, and that restricting the right to demonstrate against a war, and at the time it is being waged, means those opposed to the war have no outlet to persuade its supporters or the leadership to stop it.

Following that verdict, Tzoref's defense counsel, Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, asked the judge to determine his client's compensation.

On Sunday, Haviv ordered the police to pay compensation over the prosecution and for requiring Tzoref to attend court sessions, and to compensate him for the threat that he would be convicted and for violating his freedom of expression.